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Happily or sadly, our AIs still lack the creative leap

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on one current comparative advantage of being human, and calling for the design of a ReSearch Engine ]
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You may not like hymns — or thrash metal. Facebook, whose market value topped $100 billion about a year ago, “thought” that if I liked this video:

I might also like this “related video”:

State of the art! Big Data! Analogical thinking!

Seems like the algorithm didn’t listen to the music, it just decided “King of Heaven” and “in Heaven, King” were pretty similar as word-groups go.

Actually, their reasoning is not that bad, once you think about it in DoubleQuotes terms — they’ve stumbled on an “opposite” rather than a “similar” — but as we’ve seen with such examples as Oxford and Cambridge, or the Army / Navy game, opposites and similars aren’t so dissimilar after all.

Sadly, when it comes to musical tastes, opposites don’t necessarily work too well, and similars would in this case have been preferable.

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But the issue is human cognition and the attempts of computer scientists to match it — and specifically, to match and even surpass our analogical powers.

As I wrote in WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies, in an online chat session with David Gelernter years ago, I said:

My own hunch is that an aesthetic sense is *the great sorting principle*, that it has to do with pattern recognition, and specifically the recognition of isomorphisms, parallelisms in deep structure. So an AI that recognized deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances would be the ideal web navigator, as an I that recognizes deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances is a creative mind. It would also be playing Hesse’s Bead Game, no?

to which he responded:

Hipbone, I think basically, that’s exactly right. I wrote a book about this issue of what you call recognizing isomorphisms in widely different domains, a tremendously important issue in how the human mind works.

From my POV, the human mind recognizing a rich correspondence between two rich insights, perhaps even from widely separate domains, is the very essence of creativity — isn’t that what the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture – and thus the eventual proof of Fermat’s last theorem – was all about?

My brief chat with Gelernter dates to 1998, his book The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought, to 1994. On pp. 2-3, he writes:

Reasoning is one big part of human thought, and thought science has reasoning decently under control. Philosophers and psychologists understand it and computers, up to a point, can fake it. But there is one other big piece of the picture, which goes by many names: creativity, intuition, insight, metaphoric thinking, “holistic thinking”; all these tricks boil down at base to drawing analogies. Inventing a new analogy — hitching two thoughts together, sometimes two superficially unrelated thoughts — brings about a new metaphor and, it is generally agreed, drives creativity as well. Studies (and intuition) suggest that creativity hinges on seeing an old problem in a new way, and this so-called “restructuring” process boils down at base to the discovery of new analogies. How analogical thinking works is the great unsolved problem, the unknowable longitude, of thought science. “It is striking that,” as the philosopher Jerry Fodor remarks, “while everybody thinks analogical reasoning is an important ingredient in all sorts of cognitive achievements that we prize, nobody knows anything about how it works” — not even, Fodor adds (twisting the knife) in an “in the glass darkly sort of way” (1983, 107)

**

For a comparable, consider this NYT evaluation of another tricky issue for AI — Brainy, Yes, but Far From Handy:

The correlation between highly evolved artificial intelligence and physical ineptness even has a name: Moravec’s paradox, after the robotics pioneer Hans Moravec, who wrote in 1988, “It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a 1-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.”

Brainy the current AI’s may be, and even beginning to manage physical agility — but mentally agile?

If they still can’t tell that a taste for classic hymns does not correlate closely with a taste for German thrash, they’re not agile enough for the HipBone / Sembl style of games..

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Derek Robinson wrote a piece about my HipBone Games and AI back in the 1990s. It’s succinct, it’s relevant.

Here’s how I see these matters: I am calling for the development of a ReSearch Engine, with the HipBone Games, Sembl and DoubleQuotes as devices to be used in its construction.

The ReSearch Engine’s purpose would be to learn from humanly identified analogies — gleaned from repeated playings of the HipBone, Sembl and DoubleQuotes games — to recognize deep and richly textured analogies across the breadth of human cultures, following the principle laid out above:

deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances

Such an Engine could hopefully provide us with the links of associative links that at the moment are glimpsed in moments of genius (think: Taniyama‘s conjecture of 1956 connecting the mathematical realm of elliptic curves and that of modular forms), which then take years to be ironed out and brought to fruition (think: Wiles‘ proof of the Taniyama–Shimura–Weil conjecture, along the way to his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, 1993).

The successful design of such an Engine would be a — hmmm– singular event.

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Jabhat and IS “caliphate” by the numbers

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- large numbers don't fit well into small skulls, but we do what we can ]
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Charles Lister tweeted today:

The numbers are, for my humble self, staggering.

And you can’t lose $1.5 billion if you didn’t have $1.5 billion at some point to lose.

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How about the “caliphate”?

Here’s the Jabhat vs ISIS — now IS, aka the “caliphate” — comparison:

Among other things, ISIS “made off with £256 million in cash and a large amount of gold bullion from Mosul’s central bank during its takeover of the city” as the Telegraph reported. That’s a half billion dollars, give or take.

And now IS is presumably “worth” 2 billion. Give or take.

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To put those figures in perspective, let’s compare IS today with AQ in 2001:

Business Insider calculated bin Laden‘s ROI at the time of his death at 2,514,000 to 1:

Al-Qaida pulled off the Sept. 11 attacks for approximately $500,000, according to the 9/11 Commission report. By the end of fiscal 2011 the U.S. will have spent $1.3 trillion, or 9% of the national debt, fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq according to the Center for Defense Information. But when it’s all said and done the total cost of the wars will make Bin Laden’s 2,514,000:1 return at the time of his death multiply dramatically. It has been projected by Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and others that the lifetime cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will run to approximately $3 trillion, or over 20% of current federal public debt, when long-term medical care for the wounded and other costs are factored.

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And here’s the current cost comparison with Iraqi losses:

Okay?

I have to confess my mind is a little bit numb with the numbers at this point.

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If I had time and talent, I suppose I’d make theis whole thing more comprehensible, at least to people like myself, by treating dollar amounts the way XKCD treats radiation — but I don’t, so here’s my attempt to give a wider overview, sorted in ascending order of magnitude to make it easier for me to notice how $millions become $billions become $trillions.

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Sources:

  • Lister, leaked audio [edited to add: but see comment #1 below]
  • Lister, Golani admits
  • Guardian, $2bn network
  • Telegraph, ISIS’ half-a-billion-dollar heist
  • Business Insider, Bin Laden’s ROI
  • Exec Summary, 9/11 Commission Report [see under "financing"]
  • BasNews, Iraqi costs
  • CIA, GDP Iraq (2013 est)
  • CIA, GDP Syria (2011 est)
  • CIA, GDP USA (2013 est)
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    Today’s DoubleQuotes 1: in the wild

    Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- fascinated to see the uses others make of the juxtapositions I call "DoubleQuotes" ]
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    This first one was suggested to me by Scott Shipman as a “match” for my DQ about Von Karman’s mathematics of flow in liquids and Van Gogh’s night sky — and indeed, the two of them make a fine double DoubleQuote.

    **

    The second comes from the “HSM Press Office” twitter feed, the exact nature of which is unknown, but which calls itself the “High Spirit Mission Press” and sports a jihadist “black banner” as its avatar:

    **

    And the third?

    M’friend Bryan Alexander suggested what he called “a Piketty doublequote” in a note to me this morning:

    It may be excessive to accuse senior executives of having their “hands in the till”, but the metaphor is probably more apt than Adam Smith’s metaphor of the market’s “invisible hand”

    **

    Let’s take the two visual “DoubleQuotes in the wild” above, and look at my own equivalents:

    I have to say that I find the respective beauties of the von Karman vortext street diagram (upper panel) and the Van Gogh night sky painting (lower panel) seem perfectly balanced to me, while the fractal generator still has a ways to go before it arrives at the brilliance of Hokusai.

    The fractal-wave comparison, btw, is one that has obviously occurred to more than one person — here’s another version:

    It’s also interesting to me that in both cases — that of Hokusai and that of Van Gogh — the arts appear to have been “ahead of” the sciences.

    **

    As to the second “wild” DQ –

    I’ve used TinEye and Google image-search engines, and haven’t found any other uses of the double image HSM Press Office posted, showing an Imam praying for a deceased US soldier and US aoldiers urinating on the bodies of deal Taliban — so I imagine the pairing of the two images may be KSM Press Office’s own. And it’s funny, because I think the intention is to suggest “we” (ie jihadists) treat “you” (ie US military dead) with appropriate respect, while you show no such respect for deal Taliban.

    The thing is, here’s a caption for the photo of the Imam praying:

    Imam Hashim Raza leads mourners in prayer during a funeral for Mohsin Naqvi at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Naqvi was a Muslim, a native of Pakistan (he emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16) and a U.S. Army officer. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

    So what we’re seeing is an American imam at the funeral of a fellow Muslim — in this case a fellow Muslim who was also American soldier. And BTW those American soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses? They’re not representative of the American military as a whole.

    Knowing this, I’ve made my own DoubleQuote in response to the one above.

    In the upper panel, it shows the New York imam at the funeral of Lt. Mohsin A. Naqvi, whose flag-draped coffin was carried to the service by an Army honor guard from Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division.

    In the lower panel, we see US medics — marines, I think [ Army, see correction below] — treating wounded Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

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    Of butterflies, snowboarders, tornados and avalanches

    Monday, April 7th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- deeply uncertain as to how often he should be grateful for narrow escapes from troubles he was utterly unaware of ]
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    See, the first thing I want to know it: is an oblivious butterfly’s wing-flap roughly equivalent to an oblivious snowboader’s short slide across snow? And the second: is a tornado roughly comparable to an avalanche? I mean, a second’s worth of a living creature’s movement in the one case, and a “natural disaster” of somewhat larger proportions in the other?

    Of course, the avalanche was closer to the snowboarder, who wound up “riding” it to safety, than Brazil is to Texas. Is that a difference that makes a difference?

    The first quote above is from Laura Zuckerman‘s Reuters report, No charges for snowboarder who triggered killer Montana avalanche, posted yesterday, and the second is the title of a celebrated talk given to the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Edward Lorenz on December 29, 1972.

    Although if it had been given just 3 days later (a very mild change in initial conditions) it would have been given not merely on a different day and to a different audience, but in a different month and a different year… and maybe even mentioned first in different editions of Encyclopedia Britannica and the OED!

    **

    Well, see, I am also interested because in the paper with that intriguing title, Lorenz also said:

    You can fill the lower panel with your own conclusion as to the question of the snowboarder: is there one of them helping us avoid an avalanche for very one that sets one going? Does it all cancel out in the long run?

    From Zuckerman’s article again, broadening our scope from one incident in Montana to see the wider picture:

    Almost all U.S. avalanches that affect people strike in the backcountry of the mountainous West and are caused by snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders who inadvertently trigger them. Avalanches have killed 26 people so far this season, records show.

    How many avalanches have we already missed this year thanks to other snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders? And have we expressed our gratitude?

    **

    On a somewhat similar tack, I wrote back in 2009:

    A deer crossed perhaps twelve feet ahead of my car on the road from Sedona, Arizona to Cottonwood a year or two back. 60 mph is 88 feet per second. A tenth of a second later and the deer and or I would likely have been dead — one full second later, he or she would have crossed sixty feet behind me and I would have seen nothing, known nothing.

    There are deer constantly crossing our paths sixty feet behind us — and it’s a normal day at the office, it’s one more day like any other: sunny, then partly cloudy, with a ten percent chance of rain.

    Another time, and this was in Southern California, my car skidded out of control on a slick road as I was driving home with son Emlyn (then age 10). We hit the 3′ concrete center divider, jumped it, and flipped over, landing upside down. Emlyn and I climbed out with minor scratches — making sure we could climb out through the squished windows was the main issue. We were unscathed, but the car itself was totalled.

    Had I taken that turn three seconds earlier or later, hitting a slicker or drier patch of road, and angling more or less steeply at the center divider — would we have been, in words made famous by wanted posters long before Schrodinger’s cat pondered them: Dead or Alive

    Who knows?

    **

    I suspect we have no idea how many close shaves and narrow escapes we have over the course of a lifetime — but the Recording Angel might know, and be in a state of perpetual hysterics over our ability to ignore a dozen near-disasters while getting totally discombobulated over a very minor incident that we happen to notice…

    Unless the Recording Angel, too, is subject to Heisenberg‘s uncertainty and Schrodinger’s collapse…

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    Of visionary rings, chariots — and tanks

    Monday, March 17th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- responding to Steve Engel's comment on my post Purim, or Israel vs Iran redux? ]
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    Steve picked up on the image of the Merkabah, Ezekiel‘s visionary chariot as five wheels with wings in his comment today:

    noting their resemblance to the Olympic rings. Such patterns have fascinated artists and symbolic thinkers across the centuries.

    Thus the Abbot Joachim of Fiore portrayed the three “ages” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as interlinked rings in his celebrated Liber Figurarum:

    Cosimo de Medici, in the Renaissance, used the symbol of three interlocking “Borromean” rings on a medallion:

    and indeed, Botticelli paints Pallas wearing the Medici triple rings in his painting, Pallas and the Centaur:

    Jan Valentin Saether favors the Vesica Piscis formed where two circles overlap as the visionary aperture in the ninth image of his Viloshin Letters:

    And the Olympic rings, as befits a logo heavily associated with advertising, might be the most banal of them all — had it not been redeemed one night by the gracious moon hanging low under London Bridge:

    **

    But let us return to Ezekiel’s angelic wheels, which are related to early Jewish “mysticism of the Chariot” or Merkabah:

    The Merkabah…

    Can we find some echo of those wheels, perhaps, in the roadwheels of the IDF Armored Corps’s Merkava IV tank? Pictured here is the Mark I, from 1979.

    Production of the Mark IV continues…

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